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Illinois (13-6) at (17) Ohio State (15-4)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 23, 7 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Value City Arena (18,809) -- Columbus, Ohio. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UI 9-2, OSU 12-1. Away Record: UI 1-3, OSU 2-3. Neutral Record: UI 3-1, OSU 1-0. Conference Record: UI 2-4, OSU 2-4. Series Record: Illinois leads, 101-66.

GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling Big Ten Conference foes get together on Thursday night, as the Illinois Fighting Illini come calling on the 17th- ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Both teams are mired in four-game losing streaks, and they are separated by only two games with regard to their overall records.

Illinois comes in at 13-6 (2-4 in conference), and the team has dropped recent decisions to league rivals Wisconsin, Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan State, the last two coming at home. The Illini are just 1-3 in true road games, having lost their last three on enemy hardwood.

Ohio State began the season at 15-0, but the squad has fallen on hard times of late, losing to Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and most shockingly, Nebraska. The 68-62 setback to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on Monday night, dropped the Buckeyes' record on the road to 2-3. The knock on Thad Matta's team heading into conference play was that it hadn't faced much in the way of top-flight competition, an opinion that apparently has some merit considering the Buckeyes recent troubles.

Illinois owns a 101-66 advantage in the all-time series with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have won 12 of the 17 meetings between the two since Matta took over to start the 2004-05 campaign.

The two teams will meet again in Champaign on Feb. 15.

Poor shooting and a relaxed defensive approach did the Illini in last Saturday against visiting Michigan State, as the team connected on only 37.7 percent of its field goal attempts, while allowing the Spartans 55.8 percent success on theirs. Tracy Abrams led the way for Illinois with 15 points, while Jon Ekey and Rayvonte Rice chipped in with 12 points apiece. MSU nearly doubled UI in points in the paint (38-20), while easily winning the rebounding battle by a 38-25 margin.

Rice continues to pace the Illini in the scoring column with his 17.4 ppg, and he leads the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (23) as well. Abrams (12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg) and Joseph Bertrand (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for Illinois, which generates 69.3 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .416 overall and .311 from 3-point range, while at the same time allowing the opposition to hit 41.3 percent of its total shots, which includes a 34.0 percent showing from beyond the arc, on its way to only 63.7 ppg.

Ohio State too put forth a dismal shooting effort in the recent loss to Nebraska, converting a mere 39.6 percent of its field goal attempts, including only 6-of-21 tries from 3-point land. In contrast, the Cornhuskers made good on 50 percent of their total shots, despite missing the mark on 11 of their 13 long-range launches. Nebraska turned the ball over 17 times, but used a 20-14 edge in points from the foul line, coupled with a 33-27 advantage on the glass to pull off the upset. Aaron Craft paced the Buckeyes with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. both went just 4-of-12 from the floor to tally 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Ross and Smith, Jr. are OSU's only double-digit scorers on the season, the duo combining for 25.8 ppg. The Buckeyes rely much more on contributions from multiple players, as five others net between 6.7 and 9.2 ppg. As a team, Ohio State is putting up 73.3 ppg, doing so on typical shooting efforts of .459 overall and .340 from beyond the arc. Where the team really earns its merit is on defense, as opponents are permitted just 58.5 ppg on the strength of a 39.2 percent shooting performance, which includes a dismal 26.1 percent showing from downtown. Add to that more than 15 turnovers per game, and it's not hard to see why so many foes have fallen by the wayside this season.

Ohio State hasn't performed up to its usual standard in the last couple of weeks, and it's Matta's job to get his guys re-focused on once again becoming one of the elite teams in not only the Big Ten, but the country as well. Easier said than done, especially when you have quality teams looking to take you down. In this particular case however, expect the Buckeyes to get back on track, as the hometown faithful provides the extra motivation they'll need to get past the Illini.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 69, Illinois 65

01/23 10:17:22 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UVA 27
UNC 28
Final
NCCU 42
SAVST 14
 
7th
SFG 11
KAN 4
 
Final
WISC 52
MD 7
Final
SMU 10
MEM 48
Final
ILL 28
MINN 24
Final
RICE 41
UNT 21
Final
NEB 42
RUTG 24
Final
KST 23
TEX 0
Final
ARK 45
UAB 17
Final
UVA 27
UNC 28
Final
EMICH 17
NILL 28
Final
NAVY 41
SJST 31
Final
BST 35
AKR 21
Final
GASTATE 31
GASO 69
Final
TOL 42
UMASS 35
Final
WMICH 42
OHIO 21
Final
COL 37
UCLA 40
Final
UMO 10
KSU 3
Final
WAKE 17
BC 23
Final
BUF 14
CMICH 20
Final
MARS 35
FATL 16
Final
PITT 28
GT 56
Final
SMISS 20
LATU 31
Final
MSU 35
MICH 11
Final
KENT 31
MSST 45
Final
STAN 38
ORST 14
Final
TCU 82
TTU 27
Final
OKST 10
WVU 34
Final
WKENT 66
ODU 51
Final
UTST 34
UNLV 20
Final
MIZZ 24
VANDY 14
Final
UCF 34
TEMPL 14
Final
WASU 37
ARZ 59
 
Final
CLEM 16
SYR 6
Final
LAMON 18
TXST 22
 
Final
TXSANANTO 0
UTEP 34
Final
COLST 45
WYO 31
 
Final
LSU 10
MISS 7
 
Final
TENN 20
ALA 34
 
Final
AUB 42
SCAR 35
 
4th
PSU 17
OSU 17
 
Half
UTAH 10
USC 14
 
2nd
WASH 0
ARST 0
 
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
NEV
Final
SJS 1
BUF 2
Final
TOR 1
BOS 4
Final
NYI 7
DAL 5
Final
PHI 4
DET 2
Final
OTT 2
NJD 3
Final
MON 3
NYR 1
Final
STL 3
CHI 2
Final
NAS 0
PIT 3
Final
MIN 7
TAM 2
2nd Intermission
ARI 1
FLA 1
 
2nd
CAL 1
WAS 2
 
Final
NCCU 42
SAVST 14